But among the sea of strip malls we know as the West Side, Roma Italian restaurant stands out visually because of its three-story-tall illuminated signage and its inherited West Side landmark status. You know the building — it’s the former home of The Chili Company at the corner of Cheviot and Blue Rock roads in White Oak, the one in the odd intersection with the really tall sign.
The familiar site might be part of the reason for the crowd that fills this home-style Italian joint right around dinnertime, but it’s the extensive menu of good hearty food that will keep them coming back.
Entering the restaurant, it was apparent that that there had been no major remodeling done to the front of the house. Roma’s appearance and menu doesn’t scream “Authentic Italian,” but it is what Americans are used to, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In this era of renewed interest in comfort food, Roma has a lot to offer … except alcohol. They don’t have a liquor license.
My girlfriend and I sat down in one of the many booths and perused the giant menu. After a while, some bread and marinara appeared on our table. We were a little confused at first. Did we just get someone else’s order of garlic bread? About 30 seconds later we couldn’t take it anymore (or didn’t care anymore) and dug in.
We ordered two appetizers. The Fried Calamari ($7.95) came with marinara, too, and was just OK. It was a pretty large serving and it looked nice, with parmesan sprinkled on top, but I would pass it up on a second visit. The Bruschetta ($4.95) was different than any I’ve had. Six pieces of toasted super-buttery buntype bread was covered with onions, tomato and basil. I mention the onions first because they made up a large proportion of the topping. It was actually pretty good, but the bread was a bit too moist with that buttery substance.
I tend to order things that are a little fancy or exotic at restaurants that are less than fancy or exotic, and I’m always disappointed with my choice. This time I wanted to try one of the veal entrées. Why do the same old chicken when there’s veal, right? The Veal Cacciatore ($15.95) comes with grilled veal, peppers, onions and mushrooms in red sauce with a bit of spaghetti. I wasn’t crazy about the meat itself, but the rest was fine. One of the many seafood or chicken dishes might have been a safer bet.
My girlfriend ordered the Pasta Trio ($9.95), found under the “Homemade Baked Pastas” on the menu. It consisted of a cheese ravioli (ricotta), lasagna and manicotti topped with that tasty marinara sauce and a mess of mozzarella cheese. I thought this was a good dish and the serving size wasn’t overkill. The lasagna seemed to be at least 50 percent pasta by volume. The sheets were tightly packed with cheese and meat and it had a rich and interesting flavor. I liked the texture of the pasta in the manicotti — a bit more al dente than any of the other varieties. It was rich and cheesy as well.
The salads that accompanied the entrées deserve a mention, but really only because of Roma’s house dressing. It is tomato based with a little garlic, and we both liked it a lot. Other wise the salad was simply iceberg lettuce and a couple slices of tomato.
For dessert we took home a slice of Lemon Meringue Pie ($2.99) because there was a picture of it stuck to the wall next to our table, wooing us the whole meal. It was pretty standard, but delicious is the standard for lemon meringue pie, so no complaints there.
Steak, pizza and discounts for seniors and kids fill out the menu. The service was good, if a little spotty. Our server seemed to disappear for extended periods of time, but other employees filled in as needed, refilling our drinks and boxing up leftovers. We ended up waiting a while to receive our check as the restaurant was filling up.
Overall, we thought Roma was a nice casual restaurant with good food and service.
Go: 6900 Cheviot Road, White Oak
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Entrée Prices: $6.95-$22.95
Red Meat Alternatives: Varied
Accessibility: Fully accessible